Tag Archives: fashion

Who Will Buy

Standard

Christmas shopping. Such a delightful activity. There’s decorations in every shop window, Christmas music filtering down from the mall speakers, and lots and lots of discounts.

I shop maybe three times a year. Once in the spring to get fall clothes on clearance, once in the summer to pick up odd hippie clothing and a few Christmas gifts, and once a few days before Christmas. The Christmas shopping experience is always the most intense. I’m buying for other people then, not for me, which makes me think twice as hard. I know what I like, but figuring out what other people will like is both extremely fun and extremely nerve-wracking.

That process is not what I’m here to talk about today, however. I’m going to talk about advertising.

Walking around a mall is exhausting. Number one, there are tons of grumpy people everywhere. Not just people–being around people is exhausting enough, speaking as an introvert–but grumpy people.

Number two, the advertising. The advertising is exhausting. Online and elsewhere. A thousand larger-than-life images of photoshopped men and women, ersatz stock photo families, shiny gadgets and gizmos, story-tall displays of whatnots and whozits.

All of these posters and displays say the same thing: buy this, or you won’t be happy, healthy, successful, beautiful, desirable, lovable, whole…

Online, it’s even worse. Take a few moments to scroll through the health and beauty page(s) of any online news source. A thousand glistening, digitally altered images show you “perfect” skin, “perfect” eyebrows, “perfect” eyelashes, “perfect” everything–perfection that can be yours if you buy this product, watch this tutorial, purchase this brush, invest in this brand.

Not like the site was paid off to write those kinds of reviews in the first place. Not at all.

The greatest irony of American culture–or any culture, really–is its insistence that we’re all good enough just the way we are while simultaneously insisting the opposite.

Advertisements of an aggressive nature operate similarly to the TLC show What Not to Wear. In this show, concerned family members of someone who dresses according to her (or occasionally his) personal taste and comfort enlist the help of two expensively-dressed and overpaid snobs to tell their loved one that their life is a mess because he or she doesn’t dress according to current fashions. These “consultants” convince this previously happy person that he/she is in fact unhappy and ugly and take the person on a shopping trip to buy her things that will make her feel pretty and happy again. They also change her hair and how she does her makeup to make her look acceptable to their standards of beauty. At the end of the show, there’s a “big reveal” party to show all the person’s loved ones the glorious results of a simple wardrobe change. Everyone cries. The recipient of the makeover is crying because the emotional journey of discovering her new, conformed self is over. Her family cries because their loved one is finally “normal” and “pretty.” The consultants cry because…well, pretty sure they keep onions in their blazer pockets for such occasions. I cry because I don’t like shows that take advantage of people, and I could have spent the last thirty minutes of my life a little more wisely.

Some advertisements do the same thing as this show, or try to. Before I encounter the add, I’m content–with my face, with my hair, with my wardrobe, with my figure. The advertisement, however, presents me with an Ideal. The advertisement makes it obvious that I don’t measure up to this Ideal, and I’m suddenly tempted to feel inadequate. Why can’t I look like that? But the advertisement assures me that with the purchase of the product it presents, I can be returned to my previously content state and live happily ever after. At least until I run out of or wear out the thing and need to buy it again.

Advertisements create the problem they promise to solve.

Now, lest I trigger any knee-jerk reactions, I realize that not all advertisements are like the aforementioned. Most advertisements (store displays, etc.) give you polite reminders like “Hey, that thing you already like or genuinely need? It’s on sale this week! Just thought you’d like to know” or “This thing here might solve a problem you already know about, but you can take it or leave it, no biggie!” This kind of product promotion supports both consumer and producer.

But a lot of advertisements–and ladies, let’s be real, you know what I’m talking about–say “You’re clearly inadequate. But if you buy this thing, you will become adequate.”

I understand why companies advertise the way they do. People get degrees in advertising. It’s a science. The science of selling things. Despite my concerns about how things are advertised, I am grateful that people buy things, because every time an item is bought, someone somewhere gets paid and can feed himself or his family, pay the rent, pay the heating bill. That’s important. That’s very, very important. People gotta eat.

However, a day of shopping at the mall, the typical hive of more aggressive advertising tactics, leaves me mentally exhausted. All day long my subconscious has been grappling with image after image of what I should look like and be compared to what I do look like and am. I buy several items and my mother (the best shopping buddy ever) buys several as well. A few items she bought are early Christmas presents for me.

And I put them on and looked in the mirror. Yes, they make me feel pretty. And look pretty. I am deeply grateful for them. But, as my mother assured me today and assures me daily, I was pretty before I even knew those items existed. And I’d still be as pretty without them. Things, after all, are things, and they can’t fill a hole. They can’t make a person. The clothes do not, in fact, make the man.

The thing is, I am in possession of something no money can buy. I have a deeper contentment than any trinket or bauble could ever bring me. I’ve been given other goals besides looking like the fictional people in the catalogs or having what they have.

Christmas time is more than “a time for paying bills without money,” but “a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open up their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”

Contentment oughtn’t to rely on the procuring or possession of things. Not at all. Contentment, properly planted, finds its roots in heaven and grows downward. Then the heart is free to buy (or sell) for the benefit of others, with the knowledge that the best gifts are yet to come.

Advertisements

They are Us

Standard

Has there ever been a time when people weren’t picky about what was fashionable and what wasn’t? It seems like the human race has been persnickety about clothing ever since the fig leaf. Except that as time progresses, it seems like we pay more and more money for less and less coverage. That’s another post for another day.

Out of curiosity, I typed “80’s fashion” into the Pinterest search bar. What I saw astounded me—as it always does. Thundercloud hair. Prints that were blocks of primary colors. Side ponytails. Shoulder pads. Pleated jeans. Plastic everything. Legwarmers. Neon. Neon legwarmers.

In my mind, it all looked pretty preposterous. Fashion is as fashion does, I suppose, and even a dreadful hairdo or a dreadful outfit can’t keep a pretty person from being pretty. A lot of the 80’s models were lovely men and women—just aesthetically misguided.

But then, I look at what’s fashionable right now among my twenty-something set, and think carefully about what I see. Thick hipster glasses. Tiny fedoras. Leggings as pants. Painting the nail on your ring finger a contrasting color to the other four. Toms. Ugg boots. Yoga pants. The bang bump. Skinny jeans.

One of these days, my daughter will be doing a Google search on 2010’s fashion with her brain and will turn to me and say, “Mom, what were people of your generation thinking?”

And I’ll say, “Honey, I have no idea. I didn’t know then, and I don’t know now. I was a flower child born in the wrong decade.”

Naturally, I’ll be wondering the same thing about whatever it is that she’ll be wearing. What on earth is she wearing? Whippersnapper.

Dress

Standard

This dress.

I wore it to my first masquerade

where I, in green, made

an excellent mother earth.

 

This dress.

I wore it to my second masquerade

where I, to my shame, pretended,

played along.

 

This dress.

I wore it to my third masquerade

where I, clever assassin,

made a killing.

 

This dress…

 

There comes a point

when shimmering

folds of fabric

standing sentinel in the closet

cease to be a dress

but a memory. 

On Footwear

Standard

What genius decided that footwear was necessary?

I’m sure that originally shoes were designed for the sole (ha) purpose of protecting our feet from the elements: gravel, rock roads, hot sand, wild animals, etc. Take a look at Greek, art, and you’ll find this is so—they all wear simple sandals that provide an extra layer of protection on the bottoms of their feet.

But is that even necessary? Our skin is designed to create its own protection through callouses. Shure, they don’t look very pretty, but they serve their purpose. Walk barefoot long enough, and you’ll acquire soles as hard as hobbits’ feet. So why shoes?

Especially since they’ve clearly evolved far afield of their original purpose. Walk into a shoe store, and you’ll see what I mean. High heels are self-explanatory. They contort your foot into a position it was never designed to hold. Walking on tiptoe is great for ballerinas, but they went through years of training to teach their muscles how to walk on tiptoe properly. The rest of us just find our spines jarred out of place. High heels: providing Christmas bonuses to chiropractors since 1600.

Even flat shoes are a problem. They chafe. Even well-designed shoes chafe. Maybe this is only a problem in the women’s shoe department, where everything is designed for aesthetics and not comfort and practicality. I’ll admit the fault is with us—we like pretty shoes. Buying shoes is a vicious cycle: see great shoes, buy them, they hurt your feet (at least until they’re broken in), they wear out in a year, you buy more. Guys can wear a pair of shoes for years, since as a general rule they’re built more sturdily.

The thing is, no matter what you do, whether you wear socks or preventative Band-Aids or some other way of protecting your feet or not, if you are wearing new shoes, blisters will happen.

All summer long, I’ve been in sandals. The Greeks had something figured out with those things. They’re comfortable, and during the summer I really don’t have the need to keep my feet warm or to look professional. They keep the sidewalk from burning my feet.

Fall comes, and the chill starts to chill my toes. I put on a pair of flats, wear them for a day, and, predictably, my poor feet are covered in blisters. In the fall, UU girls (at least those with new shoes) walk around campus with Band-Aids until it gets cold enough to wear tights. And even then, the blisters will come.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

I look forward to the day when I can establish my own little dress code where shoes will not be required. I will walk out where the wild things are, let my wide, unshoeable feet get torn by the elements and come out thick with callouses. With this armor, I will pad through the rest of my days as the happiest of hobbits.

Let’s start a trend, guys. 

Timeless, Thank You

Standard

One of my roommates is the champion of out-of-the-blue questions. Five seconds ago, she asked me:

“Rizzy? How old are you?”

I get this question a lot. In fact, I have been asked this question since I was about fourteen. It is never asked in the condescending tone of an adult asking a child her age out of habit (“And just how old are you, little girl?”), even though any guess the adult makes will probably be accurate. No, people ask me this question because they are genuinely confused: “Just how old are you anyway?”

I suppose I can understand the confusion. I’m tall and I have a deeper voice than most people expect from a teen or a twenty-year-old. In school plays I was passed over for the romantic heroine and given the role of mother, evil queen, or irritable spinster on account of just how low my voice was. I have never dressed my age, since the styles designed for teens and early 20-somethings have never really appealed to me. Since I was a little child, I was brought up in an environment of mostly adults, having neither siblings nor much interaction with children my age outside of school, where interaction was kept in close check. As a result, I have always acted older than I am. This isn’t really a point of pride, it’s just the way things are.

In junior high, people assumed I was in high school. Once in high school, I was mistaken for a college senior or a graduate student. I was asked to the junior-senior banquet as a sophomore because the poor boy thought I was a junior. Random people in stores mistook me for a salesclerk or the manager, often with hilarious results. Boys as much as five years older than me would innocently ask for my number, only to discover to their horror that I was no more than fifteen.

Now that I’m in college, the assumption that I’m older has become less flattering. At a rehearsal last semester I noticed a fellow cast member looking at me with a puzzled expression on her face.

“How old are you?” she asked.

“Twenty,” I replied. I knew what was coming next.

“Oh,” she said, still looking puzzled. “I thought you were older.”

So did other members of the cast, it seems. I was almost immediately adopted by all of the graduate students on the cast because they thought I was one of them. The people on the cast who are my age ignore me for the most part, and I can only assume that it’s for the same reason: they think I’m older, and therefore unapproachable. I’m a junior, people. I twenty-year-old junior in college.

The most distressing misunderstanding I’ve encountered was while I was in Croatia. One of the student’s mothers asked (through her son, who was translating) how old I was. When I told her, she and the group of mothers she was with laughed loudly and chattered something in Croatian. I looked to the son for an explanation, he looked me in the eye and said:

“She thought you were thirty.”

I looked at myself long and hard in the mirror that night. I try very hard to fight the female tendency to be vain, but that night I confess to being genuinely worried. Worried, and confused. I have no wrinkles. No crow’s feet. No laugh lines. No grey hair. Sure, I’m not as skinny as most girls my age, but how does size determine how old one looks? Is it the low voice, I wondered? The bags under my eyes that I inherited from my father? The hair cut? Should I do more sit-ups?

Just what does twenty look like, anyway? Is there a standard? Judging by what I know of popular culture, the “standard” for being twenty isn’t anything I want to emulate. And I won’t. I can only be myself and become what God wants me to be.

But I am genuinely curious as to why people think I’m so much older than I am.

I can see myself in twenty years, still wearing tiered skirts in bright colors, walking into a restaurant and taking a seat, browsing through the menu until the twenty-something waitress bounces over to the table to take my order. When I ask her for the Greek salad, she’ll politely inform me that she can only get me a senior discount on the day’s special, and would I rather have that instead? I will tell her no thank you, I’m only forty, you whippersnapper, and I want the Greek salad, thank you very much. She’ll apologize profusely. I will go home and cuddle my cats for an hour and feel much better.

I don’t understand why I’m mistaken for a thirty-year-old. But I can choose to laugh at the situation and not despair over it. At least not yet.

Black Friday

Standard

Call me crazy. Call me weird.  Call me unpatriotic. Call me anti-capitalist. Call me whatever you like, but I see no sense in Black Friday shopping.

Don’t get me wrong: I appreciate a good deal as much as the next guy. But there are about ten hundred things I’d rather do than get up at midnight to wait in line with hundreds of other crazy people, just to get a good deal on designer clothing. One, we all know how I feel about designer clothing, i.e., that it’s a waste of time in and of itself. Two, I’ve spent the past three months working my tail off for grades, and I just spent the day before stuffing myself to the gills with delicious food. Duh I’m going to sleep in.

Those are only two reasons, I know, but neither of us has all night.

My mother had one Black Friday shopping experience that has most likely scarred her for the rest of her life. She was waiting in line at a toy store for a good deal on something that I desperately wanted for Christmas. I was five years old at the time, so I was safely tucked in bed at home while my brave mother was out at some ungodly hour bumping elbows with a bunch of other bemittened mothers with smiles on their faces but competitive gleams in their eyes. They were as sweet as syrup before the shop’s doors opened, but once the bars went up, the entire host of the demons of Sheol inhabited these women. Spitting, biting, swearing, and bellowing vows of vengeance, the women descended upon the shelves of toys like starved hyenas.

Mother would not be a party to such behavior, so she walked away from the conflict empty-handed. But she had learned her lesson—a lesson which I have learned vicariously through her experience: Black Friday shopping is a bad idea.

The extent of our Black Friday shopping this year went as follows:

Me (still in my pajamas at 10:30 a.m., reading the Sears ad): “Oh, look, 60% off all attractive men wearing argyle sweaters.”

Mother (also in pajamas, armed with a coffee mug and looking over my shoulder): “I think they’re only selling the argyle sweaters, dear.”

Me: “Oh, really? Hm. Pity.”

And that’s as far as it went. We value our sanity too much to go out amidst the teaming hordes in pursuit of purchasing things that, in the end, we don’t really need.

 

Hoodie Weather

Standard

Fashion makes me laugh. Every time I see a magazine spread or an advertising slot that introduces the new, the exciting, the brand-named and celebrity-endorsed (with the subsequent scary price tag) I just laugh.

Here’s why. I see things that are insanely impractical; either that or horrifically uncomfortable. I see skinny pants, platform heels, pencil skirts, stilettos—all things restraining and tight and usually only look good on people who don’t eat. “New for Fall!” my foot.

Anybody who lives in an area like Anytown (i.e., anywhere where the seasons change) knows that the coming autumn brings a coming chill. We welcome nights that smell of burning leaves and the dying spice of summer. Nights that echo for the lack of cricket song. There are apple pies and leaf-raking and the sudden need to layer.

So when people advertise these cute but impractical skinny tweed skirts and pencil-thin corduroys, I laugh. I laugh because those who want to enjoy weather like this do so in well-worn jeans, comfy sweaters, and faded hoodies that win you over on the sole basis of their innate comfort. It’s hard to take a ramble through the autumn leaves in a pencil skirt and heels.

This, my friends, is hoodie weather.

Sure, I own one little black pencil skirt that I wear when I feel a preppie day coming on. But for the most part, I choose something that isn’t so uncomfortable that I can’t relax and enjoy the awesomeness of autumn.   

Because, That’s Why

Standard

Ours is a star-studded literary society. Not the society of the world at large, mind you: just the Dragons, the lovely group of ladies from Undisclosed University.

One of our former members is the excellent Mrs. Henry, a gifted writer and wife of the equally brilliant Mr. Henry (names changed to protect the innocent and ludicrously talented). Mr. Henry directs plays and often appears in them, and he headed up a small campus production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It for campus enjoyment. (Incidentally, their daughter, Margarine, will be a freshman next year and we hope very much that she will join the Dragon sisterhood. Hint, hint, Margie.) One of the Dragons made an agreement with Mrs. Henry that if we could rally enough society members, we could get a deal on tickets and a block of good seats reserved. Over 30 ladies showed up, much to our (and the Henrys’) delight.

There is only one thing to be done when attending a play with good friends. Even if it’s a casual production put on in a small campus theater, dressing up is absolutely necessary. We’re a colorful gang, and nearly all of us are obsessed with vintage clothing. This version of As You Like It was costumed a la 70’s. The only logical thing for me to do, therefore, was to wear an obnoxiously tangerine-colored formal last worn in ’75. It was purchased by my mother for the sole intent of letting me startle people with its orangeness.

Yes, I was overdressed. Yes, I was overwarm. Frankly, my dears, I don’t give a hoot. I went to a 70’s production in a 70’s dress. You only live once. We had a grand time having good clean fun, Shakespeare style.

No regrets. None.

Hair Raising Tales

Standard

Fashion is entirely in our heads. If it weren’t for the everlasting indecisiveness of man, we would all dress the same way we did one hundred years ago. Sure, now we call 80’s big hair ugly, but back then it made perfect sense. I have a pretty good feeling that 20 years from now people will snigger at things like leggings and Converse and those silly little Snooki hair bumps.

One thing about fashion is certain: whatever feature you have, that is what you shouldn’t have. Pale? Get a tan. Tan? Buy sunscreen. Freckles? Bleach ‘em. No freckles? Spend time in the sun. Mole? Remove it. No mole? Get a beauty mark. Curly hair? Straighten it. Straight hair? Curl it. Fashion always has and always will revolve around coveting what someone else has, as opposed to being content with what you have.

All philosophical statements aside, I’ll admit that playing with what you have naturally can be fun. Although I have eschewed makeup for years, I do like to try doing things with my hair on occasion.

My hair is what some might call “wash and go.” I have always considered being fussy about my hair a little silly, so I just let the mop do its own thing and hope for the best. I suppose I should be thankful that unnaturally straight hair is “in” right now, otherwise I would win myself a spot on the top of the What Not To Wear waiting list. My hair has always been as straight as a board, the longer the straighter. Straight and silky. Barrettes, pins, headbands and clips all slip off my hair as easily as grunge in an OxyClean commercial. Since my soul cringes at the thought of regularly applying any kind of gel or similar gunk to my hair, I gave up on styling years ago. There are more important things in the world to worry about, like my GPA or the water supply in Africa.

But every once in a while I have a reason to want to do something with my hair. A date. Yes, those happen occasionally, if the poor little boy can get past my dad and my tendency to quote obscure old movies. Or a play. Or a concert. Or, back when I did speech competitions, a tournament.

It’s a process. I have to wash the hair. Then, after light drying, I empty about half a can of mousse onto my head. Then in go the sponge curlers, carefully applied by my loving mother. My hair is stinkin’ long, so I would have to add about a foot to my own arms to do it myself. With curlers in, I look like that little yellow bird from Peanuts. Then I sleep on the curlers. In the morning, before extracting the little buggers, I coat my hair in hairspray, just enough to get me a hole in the ozone layer with my name on it. Then I take the curlers out one by one, spraying as I go, further enraging the good folks at Greenpeace. At first I look like a poodle that got caught in an electric fence. With a little fiddling, pinning, and more spraying, I get a mass of lovely curls that would make that chick from Brave look like Audrey Hepburn.

 

It’s lovely. Glorious, even. But despite all the hocus-pocus, the curl holds for about three hours. And those poor boys always wondered why our dates were so short. My hair turns back into a pumpkin at midnight.

And no prince or fancy shoes to show for it.

The Cure for Indecision

Standard

Women are naturally indecisive creatures. A lot of us are born perfectionists—we want every hair in place, every duck in a row. It’s not a flaw in our character; more like an exaggeration of a natural inclination for order in our lives.

Our outfits, for example. Even the most conservative among us know the importance of looking nice. Matching is a big deal for us. Coordinating is an art form. There are a few brave souls among us who will dare to pull of things like black and brown, or green and orange, or two shades of red. No matter what we pull together, rarely does a woman ever walk out of the house without asking someone (if only the cat) if her outfit looks ok.

In the dorms, we ask our roommates.

In our room, it seems like we’re all super indecisive when it comes to what we wear. Additionally, we all have very diverse styles. One closet is full of roses, fire reds, and maxi dresses. Another is full of soft flower shades, khakis, and neutrals. One half of my closet is neatly arranged greys, blacks, pinstripes, and a rack of brightly colored power heels. The other half—mine—look like a rainbow threw up in there. Yet we all turn to each other for fashion advice.

After weeks of appraising each other’s outfits and offering advice on color, cut, and other girlish concerns, we’ve decided that the best thing to do is just encourage each other to wear what comes intuitively. We size up each other’s outfits, smile, point, and say “Wear that!”

Feeling the love.

Vertically Advantaged

Standard

It is an inescapable fact of female living that the one thing that you need to buy wardrobe-wise will inevitably be out of season whenever it is that you need it most.

When you’re looking for a simple grey skirt, pastels will be in. When all you want is an argyle sweater, suddenly cables are all the rage again. If you want flat, you’ll find heels. If you want boots, the rest of the world wants espadrilles.

First world woes, I know. But if the fashion world would just get its hoity-toity act together and think sensibly, my life, and the life of most women, would be considerably less frustrating.

I am currently in search of flat sandals. One, my wide feet are more comfortable when they have room to move around. Two, I don’t like shoes with heels. Three, the warmth of my feet is directly related to the warmth of my body, therefore I don’t want to wear anything that will keep my feet hot and sweaty during these early weeks of spring. Last but not least, I am currently seeing someone who is precisely my height, and if I wear anything with even the tiniest heel, I look about two inches taller. I don’t mind, and I’m not sure he does either, but just to be on the safe side, I’m trying to invest in flats. I don’t mind at all. See reason number Two.

It’s springtime, and the sandal sales and sandal shoppers are out in droves. Every Sunday afternoon I check the sales papers in search of perfectly flat sandals—no heel, all sole, with some kind of ornamentation on the strap. I see girls wearing them all the time. Piece of cake, right?

Apparently those girls bought them all last spring. No matter where I go, all I can find is strappy sandals with ten-inch heels that look like they could give you bunions in about five minutes of walking. If they have no heels, their soles are about two inches thick—flat, but defeating the purpose of a flat shoe. Apparently all the other women in the world are self-conscious about their height except me, who is desperately trying to look shorter.

The one pair I did find that fit all the qualifications cost as much as a down payment on a Ferrari. Why, I don’t know—the thing had less material than half a hankie, and I’m pretty sure the sole was made of cardboard. Fashion. Feh.

I know that most of the women in the world will disagree with me when I say this. But it must be said: Whoever invented the high-heeled shoe should be slapped. Shame on him/her for putting women through the pain he/she has. If the Lord wanted girls to walk that way, He would have bent our feet into permanent tip-toes and left it at that. He gave us bottoms to our feet for a reason, ladies. I’m positive that He fully intended us to use our feet, not abuse them.

(Ironically, if my memory serves me correctly, it was a man who invented the first high-heeled shoes for the vertically challenged Louis XIV. So, yes, high-heels were originally intended for men. Maybe it should have stayed that way. Maybe.)

Meanwhile, I continue to search for my flat sandals. They’ve got to be out there somewhere—whether they’re popular right now or not. I will find them. Then my toes will be free, my feet will be cool, my feet will not hurt, and my gentleman friend and I can see eye-to-eye.

If any of you ladies know of a good sale, let me know.

The World is Not Kind to Bridesmaids

Standard

Weddings. Weddings are lovely events. Beautiful people. Good food. Nice music. Pageantry. People wearing white. Families gathered in support of two people vowing to love, cherish, obey, etc. Pretty brides. Handsome grooms. Happily every afters. Really, weddings are lovely things.

However, comma, there’s a lot of messy prep work that goes into making sure that the spotlight is appropriately fixed on the happy couple. Part of that prep is making sure that the bridesmaids are clothed in something that matches the wedding colors. Or at least in something pretty close.

Trouble is, the options for bridesmaids are pretty scanty, and it is nigh unto impossible to find anything flattering that isn’t so flattering that it draws attention away from the bride.

I have the incredible blessing (no sarcasm intended—I am honored to be part of my friend’s wedding party) of being a bridesmaid in a wedding coming up on December 18th of this year. I am perusing the selection offered at David’s Bridal and am slightly appalled at the assumptions made by modern dress designers.

Assumption 1: Strapless dresses work well on just about anyone. This assumption is wrong on so many levels. Unless you happen to be a super model or a store mannequin, there is no way in heaven or earth that a strapless dress will stay up comfortably for longer than five minutes without the help of tape and/or black magic. Even then, you will either be unable to breathe or you will look like a muffin, depending on how you are built. (Because of my mixed readership, that is all I will say on the matter. Thank you.)

Assumption 2: One wide strap over one shoulder looks classy. Wrong. Unless, of course, you are part of a Flintstones-themed wedding and are going for the cavewoman look.

Assumption 3: Bridesmaids dresses should be short. Okay. Shorter than the bridal gown, yes. But dresses that cut off mid-thigh are no longer dresses. Those are glorified tank tops. End of story. Most girls look better in longer skirts anyway.

Assumption 4: If a bridesmaids dress is longer, the neckline must therefore plunge to her bellybutton. No. No. NO. Good grief, people, what do you have against girls covering up?

Assumption 5: Bridesmaids dresses must never, ever, EVER have sleeves. Why not? Sleeves hold things up. Sleeves look good on just about everyone. Sleeves make up for a multitude of figure differences between women. Considering the goal of a bridesmaid’s dress is to get four or five women to look more or less identical for the course of the ceremony, shouldn’t we be striving do make dresses that fit the best on the greatest number of women? Why make things hard by making dresses that only fit well on girls who NEVER EAT?

I love being a bridesmaid. I love being there for my friend on her special day. I love celebrating and supporting my friends’ decision to spend the rest of their lives together. But the fashion industry could make it a lot easier on us bridesmaids if they would just figure out that we’re only human. And we’re human on s budget. And humans that like to eat occasionally.

Rise of the Feet-Eaters

Standard

Anyone with a teenage daughter knows the wisdom of investing stock in any company that manufactures Band-Aids. Any one of us teenage daughters will tell you of our affinity for shoes and the horrors they inflict on our feet.

Shoe design over the years has progressed from foot protection to foot ornamentation. It is no longer good enough that your feet be armored against the grit of the sidewalk. No, your feet must also look good. And the crazier our world gets, the more ridiculous things people are willing to wear on their feet in order to keep up with the podiatry Joneses.

I’m convinced that either clueless men or vindictive women design women’s shoes. Designs range from the sublime (tidy little ballet flats) to the ridiculous (hot pink stilettos), all in varying degrees of comfort. And sometimes the most comfortable looking shoes can turn out to be the nightmare pair that devours your feet during the day.

These designers assume, incorrectly, that everyone’s feet are shaped exactly the same. That all women have delicate, elfin little feet that are made for fitting into slender, flimsy shoes. Some of us have hobbit feet—big, broad boats that are too wide for their length. Not only that, but no two feet are the same size. Because humans are human, no two feet are the same. And there is no such thing as the ideal foot that these lofty-minded fashion designers have in mind.

Once one has bought a pair of shoes, there comes the arduous process of breaking them in. In my case, this involves a lot of blood and a lot of Band-Aids. I have to buy a size up from my actual shoe size to fit the wideness of my feet—and even then, the shoes is often constricting, forcing my toes into an unnatural cramped position. My towes have little grooves in them where they have slowly grown around each other, each toes fitting against the next like pieces in a puzzle. Toes aren’t supposed to hug each other as far as I know.

And because I have to buy a size bigger than my foot length, I end up with shoes that are too long. Therefore, they slide up and down on the back of my heel, resulting in chafing, blisters, and later, blood.

Even sandals do not solve this problem. Thanks to the wide feet, forcing the broad shape into a small space results in compression around the ball of my foot, resulting in redness, cramps, chafing, blisters, and, you guessed it, more blood.

I’m not the only girl who could tell you this story. We go through a lot of Band-Aids before the shoe is stretched out comfortably or we’ve developed callouses that stop the bleeding.

All in the name of good taste and fancy feet. I’m half tempted to go the way of my hobbit ancestors—and walk barefoot.

Wearing Road Kill

Standard

As a library worker, I run into all kinds of really interesting (read: really weird) books. Last night as I was browsing the hold shelf, I came across a fashion book—a collection of dresses, skirts, skirts, and other…ensembles from the mind of one designer.

After thumbing through this book, I began to worry about this man’s mental health.

I saw antlers spiraling from shoulder pads. Dresses constructed entirely from crow feathers. Boots carved out of wood. A dress like a cloud of scrunched-up coffee filters. A sundress (?) that looked like the offspring of a butterfly and an amoeba. An evening gown that resembled an upside-down black cupcake. An outfit that Lady Gaga would wear to play football. An ensemble constructed from the hide of road kill. A skirt that looked like the interior of a vacuum bag after a week of sucking up dog hair. A hat constructed like a hedge. More antlers and bird skulls (yes, bird skulls) than you could count. A dress constructed from oyster shells. It was as if I were thumbing through Taxidermy Monthly.

The collection looked like something Cruella DeVille would design after a nasty breakup. I have a feeling that this designer catered to Cher in his heyday.

After closing the book, I reminded myself that yes, the world has indeed gone mad to consider that abominable pile of trash designed solely to (barely) cover models with eating disorders as worthy of any kind of acclaim.

Then I thanked the Lord for good sense and thrift stores and dressing like a human being. Not like a vulture during molting season.

Take that, haute couture.